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MSU men's basketball suffers major setback at home against Iowa, falls 78-71

February 20, 2024
<p>Graduate guard No. 2 Tyson Walker secures an early lead with a three-pointer against the University of Iowa at the Breslin Center on Feb. 20, 2024. Michigan State lost to the University of Iowa 78-71.</p>

Graduate guard No. 2 Tyson Walker secures an early lead with a three-pointer against the University of Iowa at the Breslin Center on Feb. 20, 2024. Michigan State lost to the University of Iowa 78-71.

Photo by Jonah Brown | The State News

Two road wins last week put Michigan State's men's basketball team in a prime spot to finish the regular season strong ahead of a two-game homestand. The Spartans were beginning to play their best basketball of the season at the most important time. 

That all came to a screeching halt at home against Iowa on Tuesday night.

The Spartans fell victim to poor play inside and not enough collective effort defensively against the Hawkeyes, falling 78-71 while getting out-scored 40-28 in the paint.

MSU had no answer for Iowa's Ben Krikke, who finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. The team also failed to contain Payton Sandfort, the Hawkeyes' main shooting threat. Sandfort tallied up 22 points, a game-high, against the talented defensive trio of MSU guards. 

Graduate guard Tyson Walker led the way scoring from start to finish for the Spartans, posting 16 points and hitting four of Michigan State's 10 three-pointers in the process. Forward Malik Hall had a solid night and scored 16 points, but he wasn't the same force he had been against Penn State and Michigan

Michigan State entered Tuesday knowing it needed a win to continue its push for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament and ultimately a favorable draw on Selection Sunday. The Hawkeyes came into the Breslin Center fresh off a ranked win against Wisconsin.

In a first half riddled with foul trouble, the Hawkeyes put up a 57% clip from the field and made nine out of 10 free throws to take a 45-33 lead into the break. 

It took the Spartans over three minutes to get on the board, but, once they did, the MSU offense ran smoothly for a while. Walker nailed two three-pointers while Hall and sophomore guard Tre Holloman made triples of their own to take an early lead.

MSU's Mady Sissoko sat with two early fouls, as did forwards Owen Freeman and Ladji Dembele for Iowa. Later in the half, the Spartans' backup center, Carson Cooper, picked up his second foul and headed for the bench. MSU struggled inside as a result and allowed the Hawkeyes to penetrate and score in the paint with frequency. 

After Holloman hit a three to put MSU up 27-24, Iowa responded with a 10-0 run. With that, a few turnovers, a pair of missed layups for the Spartans and lights-out shooting from Iowa, the Hawkeyes led by 12 at halftime. 

Badly needing a second-half surge, Michigan State was able to muster up some momentum, but it wasn't ever enough to bring Iowa's lead inside of five points for the rest of the contest.

Iowa picked up right where it left off out of the break and extended its lead to 16, but the Spartans found a pulse. Senior guard A.J. Hoggard finally got going with several converted layups. Walker hit a three. Akins hit a three. All of a sudden, the Hawkeye lead was seven.

The Spartans found enough juice in their run to make a difference, but they came away empty-handed too many times when down six, seven and eight points. The Hawkeyes continued to get almost anything they wanted in the paint and in transition, and MSU couldn't keep up on the scoreboard. 

MSU's defense also couldn't do what it needed to down the stretch, giving up two freebies under the hoop, as Iowa extended its five-point lead to nine in the final two minutes. The Spartans never came back and ended up with a 78-71 loss. 

The Spartans now face a must-win scenario this weekend against the Ohio State Buckeyes, who recently knocked off No. 2 Purdue days after firing their head coach. 

Michigan State and Ohio will tip off at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25 at the Breslin Center. The game will be aired by CBS. 

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